Mitt Romney’s campaign tells The Washington Post that it has a test to determine if an article about the candidate’s Mormonism has crossed the line: “Our test to see if a similar story would be written about others’ religion is to substitute ‘Jew’ or ‘Jewish,’ ” Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.
Jews could use the same test when writing not just about Jews, but Muslims and Islam. When writing about objections to the application of Islamic Shariah law in America, would our reporting pass the test if we substituted the term "halachah" for Shariah?
Saul’s comments were reported Sunday in the Post article, "Is Mitt Romney’s Mormonism fair game?" and came in an objection she had sent to the paper regarding an article last fall about the candidate’s role as a Mormon church leader.
“Would you write this sentence in describing the Jewish faith?” Saul asked in the November e-mail, adding: “ ‘Jews believe their prophet Moses was delivered tablets on a mountain top directly from G-d after he appeared to him in a burning bush.’ Of course not, yet you reference a similar story in Mormonism.”
She’s probably right — but that’s only because most Americans are Christian and Christian religions are rooted in Judaism.
But, might that description appear in an article about a Jewish candidate in, let’s say, China or Thailand? Possibly.
When Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) ran for vice president in 2000, plenty of articles focused on his Orthodox Judaism, looking at his level of observance, how he has been known to walk from his home in Washington’s Georgetown neighborhood to the Capitol to cast important votes, and how he maintains kashrut. A New York Times article, "DEMOCRATS: THE OBSERVANCES; Lieberman Balances Private Faith With Life in the Public Eye," noted that he lays tefillin — "binding the boxes to one arm and his forehead with leather straps" — each morning and has consulted with rabbis in deciding how to reconcile his faith with his public duties.
We don’t recall the Lieberman campaign complaining, however, that too much was written about his religion.
And, unlike Romney, who officially served his church as a religious leader with pastoral duties, Lieberman never served a synagogue in any rabbinic capacity.
In Saul’s email, the Post reported, she went through that paper’s November article, substituting every reference to Mormon and Mormon Church, coming up with such references as a “young synagogue leader named Mitt Romney” and “a group of devout but independent Jew women” and observing that that Romney “was far from the only young and brilliant Jew on Harvard’s campus.”
Aside from her use of Jew as an adjective — and that Lieberman was not a synagogue religious leader — are those references all that different than the ones that appeared in the 2000 article when he was a vice presidential candidate?